In recent days there has been much discussion on what it means to be "Born Again".
Some would say it just a confession of faith and giving ones heart to the Lord. Others would insist that one must be baptized, speak in tongues, dress a certain way, subscribe to a certain doctrine, or belong to a particular church/denomination if they wish to be saved.
In the following I will try and explain what I believe the Bible teaches and what would be its answer on being born again.
This is my view and I know many may disagree with me and that's cool. What I will share is for food for thought, to help bring understanding (be a bridge between Catholic and Protestant views as I have roots in both camps) and to present another point of view that may have not been considered previously.
I hope you will read, consider, pray over and then do as God directs you. In no way am I trying to convert anyone to my point of view. There are many ways of looking at the subject all of which may have some validity. Mine is simply one view.
Having said that then what does it mean to be born again?
As used in John 3:3 it means to be born from above, to regenerate, to procreate, and bring forth. So then the question is how is this accomplished? Lets have a look at some scriptures and see what they have to say.
In Matthew 4:19 Jesus calls Peter and Andrew and tells them to follow Him and He will make them fishers of men. Here we see all they have to is make a decision to follow Christ and they become His disciples. There is no record of any of the apostles/disciples of Christ ever being baptized by Him although they did baptize others.
In John 1:12-13 we are told that as many as received Him (Jesus) were given the right to become children of God.. The word used for receive can also mean to take hold of or accept. So those who take hold of Jesus will become children of God.
In John 3:16 we are told God gave His Son Jesus to die so that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life. The word believe used here means to put one faith solely in something for salvation and in nothing else. In our case that is Jesus Christ and nothing else. Jesus saves period.
At the crucifixion Jesus says to the dying thief, if he makes his confession of sin and asks Jesus to remember him when comes into His kingdom that today he would be with Him in paradise. (See Luke 23-39-43) Again nothing but confession of faith and asking Jesus to remember him. No baptism or other works needed. Just repentance and believing.
Paul writes in Roman 10:10:9 the two things needed for salvation. They are confession of Jesus as Lord and belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. That's it nice and simple.
Based then on the above scriptures then I believe being born again simply refers to our confession of faith and following Jesus.
So then what about baptism and those scriptures which seem to infer baptism is necessary for salvation. Does it really mean that unless we are baptized we are going to hell? Lets have a look at some scriptures and what they say.
There are are four main reasons evangelicals would insist on adult baptism by immersion and re-baptism of all those who were baptized as infants:
1. All that were baptized in the Bible were adults who had made a profession of faith prior to being baptized.
2. Nowhere in the Bible does it teach infant baptism, nor are there any cases of infants being baptized.
3. The only baptism by immersion is biblical (totally dunking of the body underneath the water).
4. Baptism is an ordinance not a sacrament. For purposes of discussion here Ordinance is a ceremony which is believed to impart no special grace. It is seen in many churches simply as a showing of what has already happened to the believer and an identification with the death and resurrection of Jesus. A sacrament is believed to impart some special grace or gift from God.
Again these are my views and understanding only.
First as to the claim that only adults were baptized upon confession of faith I would say the following.
First these are non Christians who are converting to Christianity from other religions (Judaism,paganism etc.) and thus being baptized. All Christian churches if they believe in baptism would insist on that. If one is coming from a non Christian background then yes they need to be baptized. However the Bible has very little to say on those who are born into a Christian family or are second generation or beyond Christians. More on that in a second.
Secondly is the idea that infant baptism is not taught or found in the Bible. With all due respect I believe that is wrong and that both Jesus and the apostles taught and practiced infant baptism. It was also practiced by the entire Christian church for almost the first 1600-1700 years of church history until the rise of the Anabaptist movement. It is still practiced by a good portion of the church today. Lets have a look at some of the scriptures which I believe support infant baptism.
First lets look at Jesus attitude towards children. In Mark 10:13-16 some parents bring their children to Jesus for Him to bless them. The disciples were upset by this and tried to keep the children away from Jesus. Jesus rebukes His disciples and tells them to allow the children to come to Him and blesses them. He also says that the Kingdom of God is made up of people like them. The word used for children here includes infants. He makes no distinction between adult and child as both can receive His blessing. It also has nothing with being able to understand or about having knowledge. Infants have neither, and yet were blessed by Jesus. All that was necessary was the parents to bring their children to Jesus.
Secondly the "Great Commission" includes children and infants.
In Matthew 28:19-20 we are told to make disciples (followers) of all nations by first baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. After doing that we are then to teach them everything that we have been taught by Christ.
First note the word all. "All" there is inclusive, rejecting no one, including infants and children. Nowhere are we given any exceptions as to people who are ineligble for baptism or who are to be refused that rite/sacrament.
Secondly please note we are told to baptize first, then teach. More on that when I discuss baptism and its meaning as I understand and believe the Bible teaches it.
In Mark 16:15 Jesus is quoted as saying go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
A couple of things to note here.
Again we see the word "all" which I commented on previously, and again which makes no exceptions. Also children and infants are creatures (creations of God) so the gospel is for them too.
Another thing we need to note here is that there is some question as to the authenticity of these verses and whether or not they were in the original version of Mark or added later. Some of our earliest copies of Mark do not have verses contained in Mark 16:9-20 but stop at verse 8. In that case anything beyond verse 8 was added later by someone else. Thus this makes this a weak case for adult baptism and in either case the word "all" includes everyone. This concept is also repeated in Luke 24:47 where says that the message of repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations.
In Acts 2:38-39 we have what I believe is a possible reference to infant baptism. Here Peter tells them to repent, be baptized and recieve the Holy Spirit. He says this promise is for them (those hearing him preach), their children and to all who would come after them. What was the promise referred to in verse 39? The promise that if they repent and are baptized, they will receive the Holy Spirit. So here we see baptism is for children which we saw earlier includes infants. More on that in a moment.
Acts 16:14-15 mentions Lydia and her entire household being baptized by Paul. Household as used here refers to a family which in ancient times consisted or a father, mother, children, infants and servants. So this would mean children and infants were baptized.
In verse 33 of the same chapter it says that Paul and Silas baptized the jailer and his entire family. Again that would include children and infants. Keep hold of that thought as I will come back to it again in a moment.
Paul also says he baptized the household of Stephenas in I Corinthians 1:16.
Having said all that I would like to look at the two other objections raised - that of immersion and whether it's an ordinance or sacrament.
To understand better lets look at the word used for baptism throughout the New Testament. That word is baptizo meaning to make fully whelmed, or fully wet. It means to fully cover something especially with a liquid. It can also mean to dip.
Taking that definition I just gave then baptism is for the purpose of covering over something and washing it away. Now lets look at it in light of infant baptism..
So why baptize infants? What is the purpose of it? Lets take a look and see.
In Colossians 2:11-12 Paul equates baptism with circumcision.
In the Old Testament circumcision was performed on the 8th day after birth of every male Jewish child. It was also performed on any male born in that house whether slave, free, a Jew themselves, or not. It didn't matter, they were still circumcised.
Also note that this decision was made by the parent. The child would be too young to decide for or against circumcision or have any understanding of what was going on, or why it might be necessary. Instead it was done to him by the decision of the parent and the command of God.
Later at the age of 12 they would have a Bar Mitzvah where they would make their profession of faith and be received into full community of Jewish believers with all the rites etc belonging to them. Circumcision was to mark them as a special people, as true sons of Israel.
In infant baptism the child is sealed for God, baptized, and then later, when older, confirmed into the church.
In the baptism ceremony there are basically three parts to it.
First is the parents request, then the child is anointed with olive oil, and the sign of the cross made on them. This seals them for the God, marking them as part of His chosen ones.
Then we move on to the second part the actual baptism itself. This includes two parts.
First the pouring of water from a shell dipped in water (in my church anyway - others may differ a bit) and pouring the water on them three times in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This washes away all original sin passed on down from Adam, and allows the child to be pure and welcomed into the church family.
The second part can be broken down into three parts.
First is the commitment on the part of the parents to follow and live a godly life and to raise their children in a godly home and in the Christian faith.
Secondly is the role of the godparents. First it is believed that they are speaking for the child, speaking and saying what the child would if it could. Secondly they agree to help raise the child along with the parents in a godly atmosphere and in the Christian faith.
Thirdly it's a commitment on the part of the church to help in the raising of the child in the Christian faith.
Then when the child reaches an age of reasoning where he or she can understand right from wrong, good from evil etc. comes Confirmation. This is more than just ritual we go through with no meaning. If understood correctly it involves three things.
First the renunciation of all evil and the devil.
Secondly it involves the confession and belief in the Apostle's Creed. For those not familiar with that let me summarize it here.
1. You are confessing that you believe in God as both Almighty and as Creator of all things.
2. That you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God including His virgin birth, death, burial, resurrection, ascension into heaven and His second coming to judge the earth.
3.You confess belief in the Holy Spirit.
4. You confess your belief in the holy catholic church. Please note here that has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic church. The word catholic originally meant universal and so you are professing your belief in the one holy universal church (made up of all believers, not just Roman Catholics).
5. Next you would confess your belief in the communion of saints. As used here saints refers to all believers and the communion/fellowship we have with each other.
6. Next you would confess that you believe in the forgiveness of sins.
7. You would then confess that you believe in the resurrection of the body
8. and finally that you believe in everlasting life.
After that, the person then expresses once again their desire to not follow sin but to live for Jesus and by his commands. This I believe would equate to a person going forward in a Protestant church or crusade and receiving Jesus into their heart and agreeing to follow and live for Him.
So then what are the merits of baptism?
Remember I said earlier that I believe it is a sacrament. I also mentioned sacrament conveys some kind of grace or gift. Here it shows God's grace that even extends down to the child. That even the least among us (including a child) can be touched by God and receive all the blessings that God imparts on His church and to all believers. No one is exempt from them. It also shows that from our earliest days God is interested in us and working out things for us to come to Him at some point.
Does that mean that we are then automatically saved and can never be lost if we are baptized? Not hardly.
The ancient Jews thought the uncircumcised died in their sins and were, on the whole, rejected by God for varying periods of time.
In the same way many people thought the baptized who have not continued on in faith, make their baptism and confirmation of no avail.
It is my belief that salvation begins from the moment of baptism and continues on until consummated in eternity, either at the crossover in death, or at the second coming of Christ. Therefore we have been saved, are being saved currently, and will be saved in the future.
I know this has been a bit long but I wanted to cover the subject as thoroughly as I could so hopefully all could understand.
Again this is my opinion and you are free to disagree with me and you will still be my brother or sister in Christ. I have no problem with that, Hope you all have enjoyed this. Would look forward to any comments you may wish to make on it
God Bless you
Rev. John W. Brown